Friday, May 1, 2009

Evidence based torture?

Great link from the Daily Dish on the treatment of German war prisoners by the British during WWII.
There is a significant difference between the German prisoners in the cage and the German spies captured by the British during World War II. The Germans in the cage were accused of war crimes, and the techniques was used to coerce confessions of guilt. It didn’t matter if what they said was true, and even then the success rate of the cage was terrible.

The Cage held 3573 prisoners. They were accused of war crimes. The techniques were designed to coerce confessions of guilt. But only about 1000 confessions, false or true, were coerced – either by torture or “not torture”. That is 70% refused to confess anything. These are, as I say in the book, surprisingly dismal results but pretty much in line with other dismal results for false confessions including Korean and Chinese torture during the Korean War and French ancien regime torture (which was even poorer). And these are cases where people don’t care if the information is true or false. They just want the confession.

By contrast, the German spies during the war were captured with standard British policing techniques and interrogated using “soft skills”. British counterespionage managed to identify almost every German spy without using torture—not just the 100 who hid among the seven thousand to nine thousand refugees coming to England each year, not just the 120 who arrived from friendly countries, but also the seventy sleeper cells that were in place before 1940. Only 3 agents eluded detection; 5 others refused to confess. The British then offered each agent a choice: Talk or be tried and shot.


Torture didn't work then (and the Battle of Britain represents more of a ticking time bomb scenario than anything we have seen over the past 8 years), why should it work now? Shouldn't Jay Bybee have included this nugget of past evidence in his "good faith" effort to render a legal justification for torture? Oh wait, the decision to torture had already been made. It just would have made for unseemly awkwardness at the intelligence briefings...

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Buckeye,


Look, we get it.

You don't like "Torture" and I understand that the fact there were physicians on site while this was happening bothers you very much.

I am not a Physician, so I can only imagine how this makes you feel. But please don't turn this blog into a torture blog, we really get this from everywhere at this point and up until now I have always been able to come here and enjoy you breaking down complex surgical procedures in plain English.

I hope to never need a brilliant surgical intervention, although I know that if I did need one, I could get it done here in America by a brilliant surgeon such as yourself that not only loves your job, you love doing it well.

So I ask, beg, really, let this be your last post on what happened unless something drastically new comes up.

I can't speak for everyone here, but I know I miss the "Happy Buckeye" who told us stories we could relate to and give us hope there were still some surgeons left in the USA who were happy and even looked forward to being a General Surgeon.

Thank you.

platensimycin said...

...not to mention the cracking of Germany's Enigma encryption system.

Torture is hardly the sole source of military intel.

Buckeye Surgeon said...

Anon-
I appreciate your stance. Buckeye Surgeon will always remain primarily a medically oriented blog. But I just passed the two year mark doing this and a large reason why I've been able to maintain it (with increased content btw) is because I exercise the freedom to write about what I want. I will continue to do so. I don't put ads on this site. I don't care about hits and page views. This is my corner of the universe and as long as I feel the urge to put thoughts to paper (or cyberspace) I will continue to occasionally write about non-medical stuff. (I wrote a review on WALL-E, for godsake) The torture topic will run its course, like any other. But it's too important to led slip from our national consciousness as just another blip in the 24 hour news cycle....

Don't worry, I have a few med posts brewing...

Anonymous said...

well said buckeye, keep writing about what you want, if im not interested, then i just click the little "x" in the upper right corner of the window...

Trader Bob said...

Speaking of medically related posts. The buckeye surgeon fans would like his insight into the spine flu that killed over 20 million worldwide between 1918-1920.Over 500,000 were in the US. Attached is a link to a 60 minutes interview in 1979 where the government abandoned a vaccination program for the swine flu due to adverse outcomes. I also attached a youtube clip of the propaganda that was ran in 1976 to create the panic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASibLqwVbsk&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eritholtz%2Ecom%2Fblog%2Fcategory%2Fvideo%2F&feature=player_embedded


http://www.whale.to/vaccines/swine.html

BR Morrissey said...

This is just a thought: I love animals, and what Michael Vick did was absolutely cruel and unusual. He deserved to serve time in jail, and did. But he will likely spend more time in jail than anyone associated with torturing human beings.

Anonymous said...

Thank-you for your exposition, analysis, and especially your position, on torture.

This might seem like it doesn't fit, but if you think about it, you'll see a connection: I had a grotesquely overtreating surgery for a benign condition a few years ago, which dashed my quality of life to a wretched low compared to when I entered the hospital in full health for diagnostic surgery. To read your intelligent, reflective, and deeply felt messages urging readers to think deeply about the extensive and complex ramifications of torture has forced me to release some of my loathing for the general dispassion and anomie prevalent in so many medical professionals regarding the lived lives of patients.

You demonstrate what so few others on the medical blogs dismiss: a love of humanity and a concern for the humane, while others seem obsessed with procedure, ailments, and their careers.

Thank-you & please continue to express yourself freely.

BR Morrissey said...

Sorry, I should clarify, I meant anyone who has participated in this government sponsored and encouraged torture.

Frank Drackman said...

In 1991 I, Frank Drackman, M.D. participated first hand in a cruel degrading physically painful practice, on one of our own Servicemen!!! And you're right, they didn't give up any classified information, they just screamed "ARGHHHHHHHHH-OWWWWWWWWWWWW", then they sung Hosannas and hugged me when I stopped...

I evacuated a Subungual hematoma with nothing but a Zippo Lighter and a paper clip...

Frank

Anonymous said...

From AMA to POUS,

"Dear Mr. President...." 4/17/2009

Anonymous said...

Mr. Obama said:

“I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British, during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, “we don’t torture,” when the — the entire British — all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat. And — and — and the reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking shortcuts, and over time, that corrodes what’s — what’s best in a people.”

Link

Anonymous said...

The importance of integrity and impartiality.